“…once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act.”
~Proverbs 24:12



Sunday, October 31, 2010

Boo!

Happy Halloween, friends!

Every year since I've moved to Tennessee, Derek and I have participated in our church's "Trunk-or-Treat." It's always a blast and a good time to be silly with our friends.

This year I'm sure I'll be thinking of what future Trunk-or-Treats will be like with our kiddos. Derek and I have talked recently about what B and C would be this year if we had them here. We can just picture our little ones in adorable costumes (him as a pumpkin and her as a little monkey... don't ask me why, that's just what I picture).

In the meantime... I'm still missing them like crazy.

Friday, October 29, 2010

ADOPT T-Shirts

принять
"Pree-nyet"

I designed T-shirts andwith the help of a good friend who is much more talented with computer graphics than I amhad them printed. I started with an order of 50 and have sold almost 15 already! We still have sizes small, medium and large available. Please let me know if you would like to purchase one for $15.



The Cyrillic word shown below the matryoshka dolls is Russian for "Adopt." Below that is Matthew 18:5 - And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.

Thank you for considering to support our adoption in this way.




Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Checking In

I'm short on time and feel even shorter on brain function. It has been... *deep breath* ...a truly AMAZING few days. With the absolutely miraculous success of our yard sale (thanks to so many of you), the overwhelming joy I felt with my loving friends at our "babies" shower, andmost recently—the wonderful news of my Dad's continued health even after three prior diagnoses of liver cancer, I have experienced some of the most amazing days of my life. God has been all over it, and it's awesome.


But... *another deep breath* ...I'm a little overwhelmed.


A friend of mine was talking to me about my blog tonight. She said that she just loved following along and really felt that my writing was a true window into all that we're experiencing. At first, I thought she was talking about our time in Russia. But the post she referred to was my most recent one—probably the one I've been the most nervous to share. So... I suppose it's time to be raw again...


While I am experiencing all these TRULY AMAZING blessings, I'm struggling a little. Two weeks ago I met our breathtakingly beautiful children. My life has since forever changed.


A little more than a week ago, I had to leave them...


I came back to the biggest yard sale ever, the resulting clutter that remained and disorganization, a thoughtful shower, a huge work deadline (or two, or three...) To put it lightly, I've been busy. But now... now, it's starting to catch up to me. I miss our B and C. I wish we didn't have to leave them. I wish B would be able to celebrate his second birthday next week with his parents by his side. I wish C would have us to smother her neck with kisses. I wish I was freezing my behind off in Russia. I wish I was with them...


*sigh*


So... that's what's been going on in my head the last few days. Don't get me wrong, I'm so unbelievably beyond grateful for all the many blessings. But... I just miss our kiddos...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Different Perspective

I'm going to be honest. I am so indescribably thankful to everyone who has donated items or money for our yard sale and to help us bring our children home… but this outpouring of love has been difficult for me to receive.


Truth be told, I didn’t have many friends in school. In eighth grade, I was the tall, lanky girl who had to sit at the edge of the lunch table by herself and was made fun of for being so skinny. Yeah, yeah, I know… You can hear the violin playing. But I’m not writing this for pity. Since then, for whatever reason, I have struggled with accepting love and assistance from friends.

I called my mom today to tell her about all the new items that were left in or just outside of our garage and explained to her how I felt. “I’m so undeserving of all of this. So unworthy of all this love,” I said. That’s not the right attitude—I know that and she reminded me of it. She proceeded to tell me how meaningful it was to her that people are reaching out to her daughter like this. The sacrificial love that everyone is showing is just so amazing.

And then it hit me and my perception changed.

All of this—the donated items, the gifts, the encouragement, the time and effort, the excitement—it’s all really for…my children. This love is for my children! And this new mother’s heart is so thankful that people are loving B and C before ever meeting them. It’s not about feeling deserving or not, it’s about being able to witness the love our extended family (read: our friends) is anxiously bestowing upon our kiddos. I’ve never experienced a feeling like this before. I’m praising God for all of this, there is no doubt!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Back to "Normal"

Today was my first day back to work since our trip...and since becoming a Mommy. Someone asked me what it was like to be back to my "normal" life here in Tennessee. While it's what I've known for the past few years, there just is nothing "normal" about it. Not anymore.

Being apart from our children just doesn't feel right. Even though we spent only a few hours each day with them for just six days, being with them fells like how things should always be. It feels unnatural not to be with B and C. But, despite all that, I know we are following God's path and all of this is supposed to be happening. There's a reason we have been chosen to become a family through the unique blessing of adoption, and there must be a reason for this waiting.

We showed some videos and pictures to Derek's parents today. Seeing their adorable smiles and beautiful dark, expressive eyes on the videos melts my heart and makes it ache at the same. Gosh, I miss them so much. *deep breath* We'll be together soon... I pray sooner than estimated.

On another note, preparations for the yard sale are going better than I could ever imagine! We literally have thousands of items that have been donated. I'm completely blown away by the outpouring of love and support. I will never be able to thank those of you who have donated to us enough.


Please spread the word! We would love a great turn out to help us raise some money.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Adoption Letter to Friends

Below is the letter I mentioned earlier. If any of you have items you would like to donate to the yard sale, please let us know. We'd also love to see you on Friday and Saturday at the actual sale. Our address is listed at the end of the letter.
Thank you to everyone who has donated thus far! Please pray people show up to buy on Friday and Saturday!




“…once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act.”
~Proverbs 24:12

Dear Family and Friends,

If you have received this letter, it means that in some way you have impacted our lives. Thank you for walking this journey with us.

Three years ago, Kat and I set off on our journey to become parents. We had no idea where this path would take us. It has been filled with trials, triumphs and everything in between. Kat and I heard a story of adoption and it was as if God had planted the seed that evening that would one day be our children. In the beginning, this story was just a story of hope that some way, some how we could have a family. But over time, God continued to reveal his plan for our lives and his plan of adoption. After careful consideration and tremendous prayer, we believed that God wanted us to walk through the door of adoption. As we researched, we heard God’s calling to adopt from Russia. We had friends that had adopted from this country and we felt drawn thousands of miles away to the vast country of Russia.

We began our adoption process in January of this year. We started by contacting a home study organization to begin their process of approving us as parents. Our time was filled with completing paperwork, tracking down documentation, taking psychological tests and more medical tests than we care to remember. All of these steps were made just to get our foot in the door to begin the conversation with an agency. After we obtained approval, we chose an agency that had many years of experience in Russia and had successfully completed many adoptions. Our agency required that we travel to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania to have a face-to-face interview before they gave their approval. We traveled to Pittsburg and completed our interview in April.

We were accepted and the process continued. That meeting feels like so long ago even though it was only 5 months ago. We know now that we are adopting a biological sibling group. By God’s grace, our children will be a 2-year-old boy and a 1-year-old girl. We feel that God is giving us these children in order to make our family complete, but also so that they can have a better life. In Russia, children who are not adopted generally do not have a high quality of life. Due to the conditions in many of the country’s orphanages and the lack of resources, children grow up lacking human contact or love. Often, children that are not adopted are not able to function in the world because of their emotional, physical and social inadequacies. It is our prayer that with God’s assistance we can make a difference in the lives of these children—for they will surely make a difference in our lives and possibly yours.

James 1:27 states, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” We feel strongly that God urges his people to care for the orphans. Not everyone has a calling upon their heart to adopt, but we do. We feel blessed that prior to beginning our process, we were debt free minus our home mortgage which allowed us to be in the position to even consider adopting. The cost for our adoption will be around $65,000. Frankly, we can not finance this on our own. We are depending on God to provide the funding for us. We are asking you to prayerfully consider helping us with our adoption. Ways that you can help include donating items for a yard sale that we are having Friday, October 22 and Saturday, October 23; transferring Marriott points to help cover hotel costs; praying for us on our journey or any other way that God puts upon your heart. If you want to help, you may contact us by e-mail at ....

Thank you again for being on this journey with us. We would not be here without your continued love and support.

Derek and Kat Hunter

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Thank you!

I wrote a blog while waiting for one of our flights today. I'll post it below, but when Derek and I came home (just a short while ago) and saw what was awaiting us, I knew I needed to post something a bit more important.

We are two of the most blessed people to have such amazing friends and family. Derek and I are planning a yard sale for this coming weekend to raise some funds that will help us complete our adoption of B and C. When we opened our garage door and saw all of the donated items already present, I was just so overwhelmed with emotion and complete gratitude. For people to go ahead and get things started while we were meeting our children... I just can't even explain how meaningful that is... We are so unworthy of all that God is blessing us with through each of you (I don't even know who all donated things yet!) and through our perfect angels in Russia. I will be eternally grateful. I wish there was a better way to express my thankfulness to each of you... When we came into our house, there was a basket of muffins for tomorrow morning and dinner in the fridge. Derek said he even thought someone planted flowers into one of our long-forgotten flower pots outside! Thank you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And now to what I was originally going to post:

Well, we’re back in Tennessee. While it’s great to be on US soil, I feel like a part of me is still in Russia. Of course I mean the kiddos, but I also mean St. Petersburg itself. It’s hard to describe, but I feel like that city is another “home.” It is now part of our family’s heritage and feels as such just as much as Chicago, my hometown. I love the people, the history, the food, the rich culture, the climate, and so much more. It is definitely a place that we will return to as a family years down the line.


Our trans-Atlantic flight had television monitors that displayed flight information such as outside temperature (-77—yikes!), speed and miles yet to go. With each passing mile, I felt the threads from my heart—which have been created and tied to our children—pulled tighter and tighter and the separation grow harder and harder.


But there is so much to do to prepare for their arrival, so keeping busy will be good. For the last few months, Derek has been great and researched several adoption grant possibilities for some financial assistance. Now that the adoption process is practically set in stone, we will apply and see what happens. We are also planning a yard sale for this Friday and Saturday, which—thanks to amazing friends—will feature A LOT of items. Please pray that buyers show up! Derek wrote a heartfelt letter, in which we asked if anyone was willing to donate some items. So many of you have offered to do so! I am so overwhelmed with gratefulness for everyone’s loving and giving heart. A few have suggested that I post the letter on the blog. I will do so in a post tomorrow. Our address is listed there (at least until I am able to make this blog public) for those of you who can make it!


In addition to the logistical stuff, there is fun stuff to be done as well! Their room is painted, but we still have to furnish and decorate it. It will be so fun doing that now, since we know their personalities. Oh, and clothes! I can’t wait to pick out cute outfits! Derek’s already said it’s going to be hard not to buy things for them every time we go into a store. Oy! Envelopes, Derek. Envelopes!


Well, I’m beat! (I feel I’ve ended nearly every post this way. Sorry about that.) We had to wake up at 2:15 a.m. St. Petersburg time (5:15 p.m. central time) after just three hours of sleep for our 6:30 a.m. flight. Interesting reason why we had to get up so early actually: Our hotel was on a small island between two of St. Petes’ rivers. The only way on and off the island are via bridges that are drawn up during the night to let the barges go through. I believe they go up at 2 a.m. and are brought down at 5 a.m. For those that need to get on or off the island between those times, there is a short 15 minute window starting at 3:00 a.m. during which the bridges are down. Our driver for that day lives east of the island. Once the bridges were brought down during this short gap if time, he raced onto the island, picked us up at our hotel on the west side of the island (which is about 5 miles east to west and 2 miles north to south), and made it just in time to cross the main bridge on the south side. Whew!

So, 22 hours of travel later, we've been up for 29 hours and are physically and emotionally exhausted. I'm going to bed one thankful friend and longing mommy.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

We are choosing to focus on the miracles God has done over the last week and the blessings he has poured out upon our family. (Typing "our family" just made me tear up again...) So, in that vein, there are so many great things to tell you all that occured today. But we have to shower and get to bed before getting up at 2:15 a.m. to make it to the airport on time. I'll just leave you with some more photos.

I wrote her name on her photo book and left it with her. As we were leaving her for the last time, the caregivers were already going over who's who in the photos: "Mama," "Papa," "Babushka," "Dyadushka"...


We had left some clothes at the baby home for her (or whoever) and her caregivers dressed her in one of the outfits. How thoughtful!
C has fun with paper today.


This toy was a hit with both of them. Good thing we brought two! We were asked to leave all the toys at the baby homes before we left. B and C will get to play with them while we're away.


The caregivers at B's baby home did the same thing with one of the outfits we left him. The stacking cups were the other big hit with him. He's such a bright boy!

Difficult

Today was very difficult. Don't get me wrong, it was full of so many smiles, giggles and love that will make great memories. But it was still difficult. Really, really difficult.

Thank you all for your prayers. They have been truly felt this week and so many prayers have been answered. I can't wait to share the joy with all of you when we return.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Happy Tears

Up until today, I’ve somehow held it together each day while at the baby homes (in the car and at the hotel are other stories). Even the very first moment I saw them, I didn’t tear up despite the overflowing amount of emotion I had. I think, at that point, something inside me helped me hold it together as B and C were each brought into a room with us complete strangers. They were so scared—rightfully so—and cried those first few minutes. But today… I teared up right in front of the caregivers.


We started the day by seeing C. I think one of our favorite things that she does is when she is getting kisses, she will stretch her head back with a huge smile as if to say, “More kisses! More kisses!” making her neck irresistible to just that. She really seemed to love Papa’s kisses today. As he would go in for some smooches, C would lean in the rest of the way to get his kisses. It was absolutely adorable (and made me love Derek even more than I already did, which I didn’t think was possible).


This afternoon, as we were picking up C from her groupa, something told me to offer to show her caregivers pictures of B. Since they have always been at different baby homes, they would never have had a chance to see what her biological brother looks like. All of a sudden, three of them came out from a playroom and gathered around our tiny LCD screen on our camera, “Oo”-ing and “Ah”-ing over her precious brother. In excited Russian, they said, “I see the resemblance!” “He sticks his tongue out just like her!” “He’s such a good looking boy!”(which, of course, he IS!) and “They both resemble Derek!” They all expressed that they thought he would take more to Derek and she to me, which I can see. After all that excitement, they went back into the playroom and quickly returned with rolled up papers. They deftly took the band off the tube of papers and unrolled them. What we saw was what brought the tears to my eyes. They were bright finger-paintings that C had made. As they explained what they were and that they wanted us to have them, they were like proud aunts and “babushkas” handing off the future of this child to me and Derek. I was speechless and so unbelievably moved.


As if that wasn’t enough, they brought in a photo album with pictures of C throughout the months. Some of her lounging in a kiddie pool with her adorable little tongue sticking out. Some of her in the green grass with a garland of yellow flowers in her beautiful, dark hair. It was just so wonderful…

When we brought her to the playroom after all that excitement, all she really wanted was to snack on a biter cookie and be held. If at some point I wasn’t holding her tight enough, she would climb like a monkey farther up in my arms, so that her face was so close to mine. She started saying “mama….mamamamamama…” So, not really “Mama,” but heartwarming just the same.


It was a wonderful day with B too. When we picked him up, the chief pediatrician, who we met with just before meeting B, looked so surprised that he so easily walked to us, knowing how long it takes him to warm up to someone. On our way to the playroom, our translator told us that one of the caregivers was talking about how pleased he has acted ever since he met us. That was so meaningful to hear.

This morning and afternoon, he was ALL BOY! It amazes me how far we’ve all come since Monday. He is so comfortable and confident around us. It was nothing for him to get into my bag of goodies and toys and comb around for something fun.


He even checked out my journal, in which I’m chronicling my thoughts and feelings of our journey.


I think he was testing some boundaries with us today, which is so healthy and such a great sign especially with adoption. He would throw a ball down a hall off of the playroom and look at Papa, seeing if he would get it for him, which of course he did. When Papa would return, B's smile was from ear to ear! After getting even more confident, he would start to run down a hallway, pause, look back at Papa and me and wait for one of us to “catch” him. If he got too far, he would turn around, run at us with his arms outstretched and fall into our arms. It is unbelievable how much our time together has changed since that first day. It’s so amazing. B showed some interest in a rocking horse that is in the playroom. He wasn’t too sure about it though. Papa picked him up, placed him on the saddle and began to lightly rock. B never let go of Papa’s sweater though. He used it as his safety blanket, which is an amazing sign! He was completely full of giggles and laughter today. There’s no sound quite like it.

As wonderful of a day as this was (EVERY day with them is wonderful!), it also began to be difficult. Hearing that B acts so pleased after he gets to play with us and seeing how much C yearns to be held so close to us makes the fact that we have to leave them soon almost unbearable. Not only will it pain us to leave them, but I fear that it will hurt them as well. I’ve been praying that they will be comforted particularly during the time between our first and second trip. I’ve been praying that they won’t think that we are another set of parents that have abandoned them. I pray that they happily and eagerly await our return. Tomorrow will be another wonderful day of play and love with them, there is no doubt. But it will also be one of the most difficult days of our lives.



Thursday, October 14, 2010

One More Thing...

How could I have left this out?!

As I've said earlier, before we met B and C, we knew that breaking the ice and forming a bond with B might take some extra work. Well, today... not only did he not cry.... when we entered his groupa room and he saw us, he ran over the edge of his play pen, very clumsily climbed the "fence" (something we could tell the kids don't do much of) and walked right over to us and took my hand. I teared up. How could you not. When Papa was taking him back to the room with the rest of the kids, he wouldn't let go of Derek's hand. When D let go, he reached around and grabbed Derek's other hand. Aaaaaahhhh! It's so wonderful!

He and C are such a blessing. I can't wait for you all to meet them and see how awesome they are.

Long But WONDERFUL Day!

Whew! We just got in not too long ago. The day before Derek and I left for St. Petersburg, a dear friend gave us a gift and indicated she wanted us to enjoy something we might not have done. We are so appreciative, especially after such a great night. We went to a nice restaurant and tried Russian caviar! Not the traditional, black caviar, as I could never bring myself to pay so much for 25 oz. of fish eggs. We had red caviar. It came with blini's and garnishes. I have to admit, it was SO good! And what a fun experience.



Okay, but you guys are more interested in photos of the kiddos, aren't you? Here's a brief rundown of the day, as I'm pretty tired. (Four Baby Home visits, playing with the kiddos, touring the city and a nice dinner out takes a lot out of you!)

We saw C once this morning and again this afternoon. Gosh, I love her smiles! They truly brighten up a room. I can't wait for you guys to see them in person. She loves giving "eskimo kisses." When she shakes her head with that huge grin, my heart just melts. She loves playing with a partially blownup beach ball. She had a good game of peek-a-boo with "Papa" thanks to the ball. (We're calling D "Papa," as that is the Russian word for Dad.) She also loves her Gerber biter cookies! Before we left today, we traced her foot so we would have some idea of what shoe size she will need for our third trip.





B was all boy today! He loved throwing the beach ball down the hall and watching Papa run after it. He also knows who Mama and Papa are. This morning, as we were giving him some Gerber puff treats, we would say, "One for _____" (his current first name) "One for Papa" "One for Mama" and he would feed the appropriate person. He especially loves it when we pretend to gobble his hand in the process. This afternoon, however, when I would say "One for Papa" he would look at Derek, reach out to feed him a puff, and as Derek would lean in to eat it, B would pull it away real quick and pop it in his mouth and laugh. He came up with that all on his own! He would also do the same when asked to give one to Papa, but sometimes feed it to Mama real quick instead. It was hilarious! We also finally heard him talking a little. After he would throw the ball into my bag, he would say, "Da!" which is "yes" in Russian. It's so wonderful to hear his adorable voice!





That's it for now. I'm beat!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Powerful Chompers and Laser Rocket Arms

Today started with me finally getting a drinkable cup of coffee. I like my coffee stronger than most Americans, but this Russian coffee is stout! Half a cup of this coffee mixed with half a cup of hot milk finally did the trick! And thank goodness because I didn’t sleep well at all last night.


We were picked up at our usual time to go see C. After carrying her to the large playroom, we were joined with two other adoptive families—one of which is a family adopting a boy and working with the same agency as us. It was wonderful to see C so interested in others, yet able to return her focus to us and be her bubbly self. She even shared some of her puffs with the boy! (However, when it was her turn to start snacking, she mistook my hand for a puff and bit so hard she left a mark that is still there now! Yikes! She likes her puffs!)


When we met with the chief pediatrician, she indicated that C had just started crawling. Well, she sure was crawling like a champ today! We got the biggest smiles and giggles from her when she pulled herself up holding Mama’s or Papa’s hands. What a big girl! And she was so proud of herself, as she should be.

C pulling herself up with Mama’s hands to help her

After visiting her this morning, we went to the Notary, where we signed official documents stating that we met and got acquainted with our referrals and that we “like them very much,” and we would like to proceed with their adoption. This will be filed in Moscow and then we wait for our court date. Our in-country coordinator prepared us for the fact that it is not likely we will have them home before the end of the year. :-( It won’t keep me from praying for just that, however.

During the kiddos’ lunch and afternoon nap, we visited The Yusupov Palace (where Rasputin was killed) and its gorgeous state rooms. Because of the orate antique parquet floors, I was required to put booties on over my heels. Nice. Though, nothing unfamiliar as we have to wear plastic-bag-type-booties every time we enter either of the baby homes.



We saw B this afternoon. Let me first say that both Derek and I prepared ourselves before we left for Russia that there would be a good chance that B would cry and cry at every visit. When meeting with the director of his baby home, we were informed he does not like change very much. Imagine our surprise when after we walked into his groupa’s room, he walked over to the edge of his play pen, waited for the caregiver to lift him up and out, and took my hand right after I offered it to him. We were able to take him all the way down to his playroom without any tears this time! B definitely became more comfortable and confident around us. He didn’t mind walking and playing around the room. He LOVED throwing the ball with Papa! His smile would get so big after a great throw—and there were many. He has a great arm!



We noticed he’s also very particular with certain things and really likes things a certain way. (hmmm….sounds familiar….)His stacking cups had to be in the right order, once the music on his Baby Einstein toy stopped, he had to press the button to make it start immediately again, and when it was time to go he had to help put the toys back into my bag. He’s just so precious!

I realized today that I truly love nothing more than seeing these kiddos smile and laugh. Each time I see a toothy grin or hear their giggles I feel like I’ve won the lottery. Maybe this is a “Mama” feeling…?

Third Day is Even Better!

Okay, Day Three rocked! It keeps getting better and better! (Sleeping on day three is not so good... I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and couldn't fall back to sleep for quite some time. Jet lag? Nerves? Excitement? All of the above?

As usual, we're off to eat but will update later. Here's a teaser:

(They put a cute white bow in C's hair today!)




(Bella snuck in this photo!)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Miraculous Day!

After we awoke this morning and turned on CNN, we were so pleased to see that they have been successful in rescuing the first Chilean minor. By the time we left our room for breakfast, they were working on the third. Praise God for the miracle of their rescue several weeks before what was first estimated.

This whole week seems miraculous to me. We’ve definitely felt and experienced God’s grace and love. I am and will always be so grateful that God chose us to walk down the path of adoption. It is such a blessing to get even more of a taste of God’s love for us. To love someone so much before they even know who we are... To love someone so unconditionally before they show any signs of loving us back or realizing they should depend on us, as newborn infants do... Thank you, Lord, for this experience!

Just finished breakfast. We’re off again!

Smiles All Around!

(Our boy's first name will start with a B, and our girl's with a C. So, to make blogging easier, I'm going to refer to the kiddos as B and C. We are keeping their Russian names as middle names.)

We started the day by visiting C at 10 a.m. She wasn't very hesitant coming to us at all. We took her down to a large playroom and and got to love on her some more. We saw her first huge smile and heard her laugh as I was stealing kisses. She has the most beautiful smile and her giggle is music to my ears. She loved Derek's kisses too, though is still warming up to him. Chances are, she has not been around men much, if at all, so he's just "different" to her. But you'll see later in the post that she is taken with him! We were blessed enough to be invited to watch the Fall Festival play that the caretakers put on for her "groupa." One woman was playing a keyboard and telling a story, as the other caretakers danced and doted on the kiddos. It was like watching her first pre-school production, I suppose!

We then made it over to B's Baby Home just before his lunch. Yesterday was definitely just a "getting familiar" day. I didn't expect an instant smile and hug from him upon first meetinghim by any means. However, I did pray that we would be able to connect even more today. And we did! Though he cried again at first when his caregivers took him from his groupa, he stopped almost instantly just a minute after he was in Derek's arms. He absolutely LOVED thestacking cups and showed his intelligence by correctly putting all 8 of them together! Derek stacked up the cups and he kicked them over, resulting in us seeing him smile for the first time!


During their early afternoon nap, we visited the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood. Unfortunately, is we could not go inside, as it was closed for "technical reasons." We just walked around the area, taking in the beauty of the city.



We stopped to have lunch at a Russian cafe, where I was adventurous and ordered "Herring with a Fur Coat." Our translator promised us it was good and explained that it is a dish usually made during Russian celebrations. Well, we were definitely in the celebrating mood! I wasn't expecting much, but ended up with something out of "Top Chef." The "fur," while it looks like cheese, is actually shredded egg.



Then, it was back to C's Baby Home for some more giggles. If you remember, she loved my bracelet yesterday (and she still loved it today!), but she showed an great interest in my necklace as well today. This is sweet to me, since the stone is her birth stone. It seems like she will be an accessory queen!


Our driver offered to take us to B's Baby Home one more time. (We are SO blessed that we got to see each of them twice today!!) This visit, we gave him some Gerber puffs and I think that's what finally broke the ice for the three of us. While he loved chowing down on those things, he loved feeding "Papa" even more! Especially when Papa pretended to eat his hand along with them. We got many toothy smiles from that! He alos loved looking at the picture book we made him. It may be our imagination, but when Derek would ask him "Where's Papa's picture?" he eventually would turn to it and look up at him. It was the sweetest thing! When is was time to go, he saw me putting the toys back in my bag and decided to help. So cute! Derek carried him upstairs to his groupa. When B was walking away with his caregiver, he looked back twice as if to say, "Please come back!"

And, of course, we can't wait to do just that!

Tomorrow, we will file our official intent to adopt the kiddos. Horray! And then spend more time with them in the Baby Homes. The first day, to be honest, I was a little scared as I didn't want to frighten them by making them play with us strangers. But today... I'm so in love! And I can't wait to try to make them smile tomorrow!

Today Was Even Better!

Today was even better than yesterday, if that is even possible. We were delayed an extra hour getting back to our hotel due to terrible traffic, so we're heading out to get some dinner. Will update later tonight!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Here We Go Again!

We're off to start another day! Can't wait to see the little ones again. We should be able to see our little girl twice today and ourboy just once.

Love you all SO MUCH back home. Thank you for you love and support!

One of the Most Memorable Days of Our Lives

We started the day with a wonderful breakfast at the hotel. I’m not sure what made it more wonderful—the food or the fact that it is completely included in our great room rate! ;-)

After breakfast, our amazing translator/daredevil driver took us to the Ministry of Education where we officially received our referrals. Natasha, our outstanding in-country coordinator, prepared us last night for the meeting, so we went in fairly confident. The MOE representative went over the kiddos’ general medical history and what she had on record regarding their birth parents. There, we also met another couple adopting through our agency who were also on their first trip. The boy they travelled to see is at the same baby home as our beautiful girl.
Then it was off to see our boy! We first spoke with the Baby Home Director, a kind pediatrician. She gave us more details about his health and background (He’s very sociable in his “groupa,” she says. Sound like anyone we know…?); and before we knew it, a caregiver is walking him through the door in to meet us! Well, we prepared for “the worst” and thought there was a good chance he would cry and cry every minute of every visit this entire week. We are complete strangers, keep in mind; and don’t even speak a language that sounds the least bit familiar to him. And cry he did. At least for the first few minutes. Once he saw a musical toy we brought, he was intrigued and stopped the sobbing. After the familiar caregiver left and it was mainly just us, he was so brave! Of course he was frightened, but he was so strong and held it together. He let each of us give him plenty of kisses—he even reached out several times for more! When we went off to a playroom, he walked down the hall hand-in-hand with Derek like it was nothing. In the room, Derek sat down and our little boy just clung to him. It was precious.

After we left his Baby Home (the kiddos—though biological siblings—are at two different Baby Homes), we met with a social worker who was able to give us even more background information. Then it was lunch with our translator. Then, off to see our little girl! Meeting her was just as magical as meeting her brother. She cried at first as well, though calmed down shortly. She loved my colorful bracelet (thank you, Leona Tobin!) and the camera lens cap cover. When she was first brought into the room, the caretaker holding her introduced Derek and me to her as “Mama” and “Papa.” My heart melted. And my goodness, she looks so much like her brother! There is no mistaking them for “brat” and “sestra” (brother and sister). She actively played with some of the toys we brought. It was just so amazing finally being there to interact with her.
We were lucky enough to get to go back to our boy’s Baby Home one more time this afternoon. This time, we were invited to walk with him outside. They bundled him up in a snowsuit and hat (it’s probably just in the lower 40s here, but they dress the children VERY warmly) and off we went! He played with Derek in a puddle and started interacting with him when playing with a toy truck. It was just so amazing.
We are really looking forward to seeing them tomorrow and making even more headway with bonding with them.

Here's a sneak peak of the kiddos. We won't be posting any photos that give away their identity before court, just as a precaution. But these should be harmless:

bracelet photo


truck photo


Off to bed and to do it again tomorrow! Woot!


Perfect Angels

We met two perfect angels today! After a minute or two of tears due to meeting "strangers," we got to meet and love on two of the most magnificent children! I don't even know how to explain this day... It was wonderful, emotional, exhilarating and oh so memorable!

More to come later. Derek and I are starving and are going to venture out for a bite to eat.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Checked In!

After three plane flights and 1.5 hours of sleep, WE ARE HERE! Despite being absolutely exhausted when we touched ground in St. Petersburg, I had butterflies in my stomach thinking that we are in the same city as our kiddos! However, I still don't think the magnitude of what is about to happen over this next week has sunk in. Maybe after a few more hours of sleep. Maybe tomorrow morning when we go to the Ministry of Education and officially receive our referrals. Maybe on the way to the baby home(s). Maybe we when get to hold them!! :-)

Our room here in St. Petersburg is amazing. Our driver (and possibly translator too?) requested a corner room for us, so we have a marvelous view! Check it out:



(Okay, I don't think the video works. I think it's too big... We'll try to figure something out later. But take our word for it, it is beautiful here! Even with the rain)

We meet our in-country coorinator in about a half an hour. She'll meet us in our room and go over what to expect this week, particularly tomorrow. After that, we may walk down the street (with our coats, it's chilly and rainy here!) to a place our driver recommended for dinner. Known for it's "pies," he said, which I'm guessing are not for dessert.

We don't have Internet in our room, so we are accessing it in the hotel lobby. We hope to have the chance to update you guys as much as we can! We love you all and are SO thankful you are all on this journey with us!

Leaving On a Jet Plane

We are in St. Petersburg! Below is a video taken at the beginning of our journey today. Or... yesterday, I guess.

video

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Photo Albums

While we won't get to leave a lot of things for our kiddos as we return from this first trip (not that they would get to keep and use for themselves, anyways), we have been told that if we leave a photo album the caregivers will look through it with them. The thought of our kiddos getting to see the faces of their family every dayif only in a photographand be reminded that we love them and are coming for them makes this mom-to-be so grateful.

Thanks to the recommendation of a dear friend, we bought two photo albums made particularly for babies and toddlers. How wonderful would it be if, when we are united with them at the beginning of trip #2, they recognize our faces as Mommy and Daddy?! Or, I guess I should say, "Mama" and "Papa."

Here's a peek at two of the photos with Cyrillic explanations of who we are:

"Papa" & "Mama"

"sobaka 'Bella'" & "sobaka 'Lexie'"

The pre-travel To Do List is still rather long. Time to sign off!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Late Nights

It's past 10 p.m. I just finished eating dinner 15 minutes ago. Taco Bell. In the last month I've come homeafter a day of work, errands, church stuff, you name it—after 8 p.m. at least two-thirds of the time.

Life is about to change, itsn't it?

I can't wait!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What Would We Do Without Friends?

One of my dearest friends came over tonight to assist me with going through some items in our garage in preparation for a yard sale. (Friday, October 22 and Saturday, October 23 - come support it if you can! Or let us know if you have items to donate.) I don't know what I would have done without her help! Well... yeah... I do. I'd most likely still be out thereprobably shivering by now and keeping the moths from flying in my hairsorting through random Little People toys, deciding which I should keep and which to sell. Thank goodness for my friend Sloane!

So many people have expressed their eagerness to help us. I wish I had more things I could ask people to do. Truly, I do. I have a "To Do" list a mile long (but really, who doesn't?), but I just don't know what to tell or ask of people.

Just pray for us. As cliche as that sounds, we definitely can use it. Those who know me well at all know that I tend to worry and stress more than I probably should. With everything that needs to get done at work, in preparation for the trip and the yard sale and so much more, I'll admit, I've allowed myself to become overwhelmed. But, I keep telling myself each day, "Just do what you can do." As long as we have the necessities (passport, visa, clothes, etc.) it will be okay. I pray that when I get on that plane, I'm able to leave the stresses behind me and focus on the joys to come!

Monday, October 4, 2010

This Time Next Week Redux

This time next week... *deep breath* ...I'll be a mom. If not on paper nor biologically, definitely in my heart. I do feel that God has been preparing us for parenthood, but I also believe he has helped us guard our hearts until the right time. That time is soon.

Our path to parenthood has not been an easy one, as most of you know. For a short while, it had been filled partially with waiting, disappointment, helplessness, pain and uncertainty. But overshadowing all of that has been our very blessed journey that began when we followed God's call for us to adopt. I am honored that God has placed orphans upon our hearts and will form our family through adoption. "...once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act." (Proverbs 24:12) However, adoption has its own uncertainties, and we are thankful to our Lord that He has protected our hearts during these beginning stages of the process when so much is up in the air. Now that we are nearing the day that we will finally see the beautiful faces of our children in person, I sense the peace of the Holy Spirit allowing me to experience the excitement of our upcoming trip. I've been hesitant to use the words "mom," "dad," "our son," "our daughter," but that hesitation is wearing off.

On my way out the door this morning I stopped and kissed my husband and said, "Do you realize this time next week we will have already met both of our children? You'll be a 'dad!'" Derek just looked at me. "Wow," he said. Wow indeed.

One of my closest friends recently gave birth to her first child. While I'm not experiencing all the physical things that come with being pregnant, I feel I might have some idea of what it's like to be less than a week from one's due date. Excitement. Overwhelming emotions. Nervousness. Anxiousness. You name it, I'm probably feeling it!

Can you imagine what my posts will be like one week from today...?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Week From Today

A week from today, we will be in St. Petersburg! We will be in the same city as our kiddos! We will be breathing the same air! We will be (I'm guessing here) a short 30 minute drive away from either of them! Oh my goodness!

Our plane will land around 3 p.m. St.Petersburg time, which is about 6 a.m. Central Time. So by the time most of you are out of bed next Sunday, we'll be on our way to our hotel! We'll spend the first day adjusting to the time difference. We'll be greeted at the airport by our driver, who will be with us the rest of the week. He'll most likely take us to a store and help us pick out some snacks and bottled water for us to keep at the hotel. (Still not being 100 percent familiar with the Russian alphabet, who knows what we would pick up if we were on our own!) We have been advised NOT to drink the water in Russia. After we get settled into our hotel, our in-country coordinator will come to visit us and brief us on our wonderful and exciting week to come.

Most likely, we will go to the Ministry of Education (a governmental body in Russia) first thing on Monday morning and will OFFICIALLY receive our referrals. From there, we will be off with our driver and translator to the baby homes to meet the kiddos!

We still need to finish packing!!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

New Friends, Continued Blessings

I just continue to be amazed at the blessings our Lord has poured upon us! While the adoption process is not for the faint of heartas it can be a difficult and frustrating roadGod has blessed us with such amazing supporters. There is no doubt that He has used our friends and family as vehicles for sharing His love.

This past week I had the honor of being invited to a local adoptive families group. I say "honor" because it truly was so wonderful being among bright and sincere women who have either already experienced the blessing of adoption or are right in the thick of the process, as we are. There is so much for me to learn from these women and so much to share. I can't wait!

The friends and family the Lord has blessed me with to this point have just blown me away. Truth be told, I was never one to have a bunch of good, genuine friends growing up. The love you all have shown me and Derek, particularly during this process, has been almost overwhelming. Words can't express how grateful I am of all of your support. We are so blessed to be able to share this journey with such amazing people. And our children will be all the more blessed to have you in their lives.

I'd say I can't wait for you all to meet them, but I can't wait to meet them myself! A little over a week!!!

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